VIDEO: Best, Pele and a Half-Time Bovril!

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Although many of the biggest names in world football now play in the English Premier League, many older football fans who can remember will probably tell you how much better it was back in the 1970s.

Back then you had genuine characters on and off the field, a much more open contest with more clubs in the title running, less diving and much more home grown talent on show in our top division.

That is certainly a view held by Sutton-born journalist Andy Smart, of Kirkby, who has just released a nostalgic book called Best, Pele and a Half-Time Bovril.

The book touts the 70s as ‘football’s last great decade’ and argues its case well.

For those who remember the 70s, the stories and photos of names such as George Best, Brian Clough and Peter Taylor, Tony Currie, Frank Worthington, Stan Bowles, Pele, George Best, Clive Thomas, Don Revie, Bill Shankley and so on will bring warm memories flooding back.

We had the first wave of foreign imports, the first genuine influx of black players in teams all over the top division, the FA Cup being treated as something the big teams still dreamed of winning and respected and – something that hasn’t changed – the national team disappointing England fans.

“It’s always been an ambition of mine to get a book out, especially as football has always been an important part of my life,” said Andy. “I covered Mansfield Town in the 70s so that was a key era for me.

“I started to think about football in the 70s and compared it with today and I think it was better in the 70s than now. You had all those different teams that were capable of winning the First Division, as it was then.

“Leeds and Forest were among the teams that won the title and that couldn’t happen today. They haven’t got the money or the power.”

He added: “I don’t think we had the diving and feigning injury in the 70s like we do today. I was speaking to a former pro the other day and he said the only one he could remember doing that in the 70s was Francis Lee. That puts it in perspective as these days I think every player does down too easily.

“I can remember some great names and great moments. Like the great goal Frank Worthington scored when he flicked the ball over his head, trapped it on his thigh and then volleyed it in when he was playing for Bolton.

“There is a chapter about Cloughie and his relationship with Peter Taylor. How they came together to take first Derby and then Forest to the most unlikely championships. It could never happen again.

“There is also chapter about another Nottingham manager called Bertie Mee, who people tend to forget about. He took Arsenal to the double in 1971.”

Best, Pele and a Half-Time Bovril (ISBN 978-1-78219-886-4) is published by John Blake Publishing, is available through all the usual outlets.